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Parochial vs. Public Schools

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My two daughters currently attend a parochial school in Connecticut. What are the advantages of sending a child to a parochial school? Would they get the same education in a public school? Am I wasting my money sending my daughters to a parochial school when they can be getting the same education in a public school?

A: Some of the advantages that your daughters should be receiving at their parochial school are a curriculum that really focuses on teaching basic skills and an atmosphere that demands respect for authority and self-discipline. Plus, considerable attention is usually focused on maintaining order. There are fewer discipline problems because parochial schools can be selective about whom they admit and are under no obligation to retain children who don't stick to the rules. In general, children at parochial schools work harder than those at public schools and are less likely to drop out. However, like anything else that has advantages, there are also disadvantages to attending parochial schools. Most of these schools do not have the money for a lot of fancy equipment, offer fewer elective courses (art, music, computers), and have fewer extracurricular activities. At the high school level, there is usually little to no emphasis on vocational education.

Undeniably, there are good and bad parochial schools just as public schools vary in their excellence. It is unrealistic to make a broad general statement that parochial schools are better than public schools. In order to decide whether your daughters could receive the same education at a public school as at the school they are now attending, you need to compare the two schools. Look at the curriculums and decide which one best meets your daughters' needs. Compare the copyright dates on textbooks. While old math and English textbooks can be good instructional tools, old history and geography books will not give your children a solid knowledge of recent events and boundary changes. Consider also such things as class size, achievement test scores, the teachers, and the emphasis on order and discipline.

There is one additional factor to think about. The parochial school is giving your children a religious upbringing that cannot be duplicated at a once a week religion class. Furthermore, they are having the chance to be with a group with similar values and be part of a faith community.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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